After a spring and summer of uncertainty, wrestlers will be competing under the University of the Fraser Valley Cascades colours starting on Friday.
Two wrestlers will make the trip to Calgary for the Dinos Invitational tournament.
UFV announced the suspension of its wrestling program for the 2019-20 season back in April, but stated that individual wrestlers will still be allowed to represent the school. Those wrestlers must now pay their own entry costs to any tournaments and all travel fees. They must also meet all academic requirements to ensure eligibility.
The suspension of the program came following the removal of original head coach Raj Virdi back in November and parting ways with assistant coach Gurjot Kooner in December. Former Canadian national wrestling champion and current UFV facilities operations coordinator Stacie Anaka then took over coaching duties for the remainder of the 2018-19 season.
Abbotsford’s Mid Valley Athletic Club has now stepped up and assisted with the funding of the athletes and the hiring of a coach. The MVAC has also brought back Kooner to coach the program. Jim Mitchell of the MVAC said it was a logical decision to bring him back into the role.
“We needed a coach and he’s the best fit,” he said. “He’s very knowledgable and if he didn’t do it we would have been scrambling to get someone. He’s the first guy we asked and he was more than willing to come back.”
Mitchell said that UFV have been helpful to make the team a reality.
“They’ve been helping us out with administration things and eligibility and they allow us to train in the gym for free,” he said. “They also have access to the trainer.”
Mitchell said he harbours no ill well for UFV moving away from the funding of the team.
“They have to cover their butts and make certain decisions and I understand that,” he said.
The wrestlers competing under Cascades colours this season are: Amar Atwal, Sunny Benning, Simren Brar, Karan Dhillon, Brad Hildenbrandt, Ali Raghuzar, Harvin Mand and Calista Espinosa.
Wrestlers will have to compete in at least two Canada West tournaments during the 2019-20 season to be eligible for the championships in the spring.
Mitchell admitted it will be difficult to attract top talent under the individual model.
“We didn’t have a coach to do any recruiting,” he said. “We’re hoping we will do a good job here under this model and get some operational costs back.”
He added that what is in place right now is a short-term solution, but things could always change.
Mitchell said he wants the Cascades model to be part of a larger regional wrestling system that would see more high school and middle school students get interested in the sport. He would like to see MVAC help grow the sport in local schools and then have the UFV program there for those who want to continue to pursue the sport.
He also confirmed that UFV and MVAC will host the Cascades Classic wrestling tournament in January.